Have you ever heard of Auroville, the city often referred to as a utopian city without money and religion? Auroville is located in the Viluppuram district of Tamil Nadu, India, and it’s known as “The City of Dawn.”
It was designed to accommodate 50,000 residents from all around the world, with the vision of creating a universal city where people of all nations can live peacefully and harmoniously, transcending beliefs, politics, and nationalities. Auroville aspires to be a place that embodies the unity of humanity in the future.
The History of Auroville
Auroville, often described as a utopian city without currency, government, or religion, was founded in India in February 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, a French woman known as “The Mother.” She drew inspiration from her spiritual partner, the Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo, who sought harmony in all aspects of life.
Upon her passing in 1973, Auroville started to flourish under the collective efforts of its residents. Despite being situated in a barren area, Auroville has become home to 3,300 people hailing from 52 different countries.
Half of its population consists of Indian nationals, while French nationals make up a significant portion. The residents aim to build a new kind of human city, fostering peaceful and harmonious coexistence with a strong spiritual dimension.
Over the last half-century, Auroville has thrived with support from UNESCO and the Indian government, which designated Auroville as an “International Cultural Township.” The town’s layout is designed like a galaxy, with a central structure known as Matrimandir, or the “Mother’s Temple.” Matrimandir, a nine-story golden sphere, serves as a place of meditation.
The residents of Auroville successfully transformed a desert into a lush forest by planting three million trees. Auroville is considered a living laboratory for ecological urban planning.
Money in the Utopian City
In Auroville, residents, often referred to as Aurovillians, contribute their possessions to the community and relinquish personal ownership. This communal lifestyle, which entails no personal ownership of belongings, has been met with criticism and considered unconventional by some. Nevertheless, life in Auroville persists.
A significant objective for Aurovillians is to abstain from using money as a means of payment for work, thus eliminating any financial circulation within the community. Residents are responsible for providing for each individual’s basic needs to the best of their ability.
Simultaneously, Auroville is striving to establish a cashless economic system, where those who are financially capable are encouraged to contribute at least enough to sustain themselves. Moreover, all expenditure is expected to be as cost-effective as possible through the Community Fund.
Newcomers are also expected to contribute, at a minimum, to cover their own expenses during their first year. Despite the various activities in Auroville, the city still struggles to meet housing and other needs for all its residents. Therefore, inhabitants are encouraged to engage in various economic experiments within the city.
Aurovillians are involved in a wide range of projects, such as crafting handmade paper, producing organic food, and exporting incense. They also work on reforestation, organic farming, appropriate technology, and basic education.
Aurovillians aim to turn their city into a home for 50,000 residents. To achieve this goal, they have requested €120 million, or nearly $133 million, from the Indian government.
Currently, around 100 tourists from around the world settle in Auroville every year, seeking spiritual and ecological values in this unique city.
City Planning of Auroville
The “Mother” conceptualized the basic design of Auroville in 1965. This concept was later handed over to the French architect Roger Anger to oversee the physical construction of the city.
Auroville’s layout resembles a galaxy with several “arms,” and its “lines of force” converge at the central area. At the heart of the city stands Matrimandir, which is the soul of Auroville.
Radiating from the Matrimandir Gardens, there are four zones, each focusing on essential aspects of city life: the Industrial Zone (north), the Cultural Zone (northeast), the Residential Zone (south/southwest), and the International Zone (west).
Finally, surrounding the city is a greenbelt comprising forests, farmlands, nature reserves, and scattered settlements for those involved in agricultural activities.
Auroville remains a unique experiment in communal living, sustainability, and spiritual exploration, attracting people from all corners of the globe seeking a different way of life.